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Create a pumpkin from scratch and render it with Adobe Illustrator’s gradient and mesh tools to transform it into a realistic jack-o’-lantern!

Tutorial: Gradient Mesh Pumpkin Vector


  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CC 2014
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Topics Covered: Gradient Tool, Mesh Tool, Shape Builder Tool
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1-2 Hours

What You’ll Be Creating

Step 1

Begin by creating a New Document that’s approximately 6 inches by 6 inches. Really, the size is up to you, but this is what I chose for my version of the design. We’ll start with a quick sketch using the Pencil Tool (N). If you’re using Illustrator CC, adjust the tool’s options so the Pencil’s fidelity is at the midpoint between Accurate and Smooth. See the settings I used below.

Step 2

Start by drawing out a pumpkin-like shape in bright orange (#FA8511). Note the lumpy quality of the top and bottom of the pumpkin. We’ll create new shapes for the actual design, but this gives us a good guide to use while creating the final piece.

Use the Pencil Tool to draw a long, slightly misshapen oval in the center of the pumpkin blob. I chose a light orange (#FFB61C) for the fill color.

Step 3

With the Mesh Tool (U), add three points to the width of the oval. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the anchor points within the mesh that are on the right side of the oval. Color them varying shades of dark orange (#AA430E). Choose a yellow-orange (#FFA81D)for the anchor points to the left of the center of the oval shape. Choose a medium orange (#FF6600) for the left side of anchor points. Check out the gradients for the first pumpkin section.

Step 4

For the highlight on the first oval, I’ve selected anchor points within the mesh that are in the upper left of the shape. Start with a few at bright yellow orange (#FFB93E).Then add some instances of light orange (#FFD98F). Note the use of bright orange (#FE9B0C) as well to even out the highlights.

Step 5

The second oval shape curves to the right. Once again, I used the Pencil Tool to quickly draw mine. You can use whatever drawing tool you feel most comfortable with using within the program. I opted for columns lines of meshpoints and three rows. Note how the mesh curves with the shape. Starting at the bottom, apply dark orange. The outer left should be bright yellow-orange. The inner right should be a medium orange, as though the first section is reflecting onto it. The upper left has the same highlight colors as used in the first shape in

Step 4

Make sure this second shape is placed below the first oval in the Layers panel.

Step 6

The third shape curves to the right more sharply than the second one. Note how the mesh lines are clustered together, toward the left. Once again, dark orange on the bottom, yellow orange in the middle, and medium orange on the right side. Light orange is used as highlight again on the upper left. Make sure to place this oval beneath the other two in the Layers panel.

Step 7

Use the Selection Tool (V) to select the second two pumpkin sections and Copy (Control-C) and Paste (control-V) them. Reflect the copied shapes over a Vertical Axis and Align them on the right side of the middle pumpkin section. Place them beneath the other sections in the Layers panel. Note how the left side of the middle-right section is dark orange rather than medium orange. The highlights are also subdued and other shadows are darker.

Step 8

Using the Direct Selection Tool, drag the top of the outer sections’ anchor points inward in order to flatten and elongate the top of the pumpkin (see below).

Step 9

Draw a bumpy shape for the top of the pumpkin with the Pencil Tool. I placed dark orange along the top edge of the gradient mesh. Additionally, I wanted to accentuate the curves of the shape with medium orange between each section and yellow-orange toward the roundest points. Place this shape below the other gradient mesh shapes in the Layers panel. Delete the first shape drawn in

Step 2 of this tutorial. Note how dark orange was added within the mesh of the shape drawn in this step in order to make it look like the front is casting a shadow onto it.

Step 10

With either the Pen Tool (P) or the Pencil Tool , draw a long green stem placed behind the front sections in the Layers panel. I chose a medium green ( #9B9E31 ) for the base color. Start at on the left side with a dark green (#76762C). Down the center of the stem, I used a bright yellow-green (#B2B541). On the right edge of the stem I’ve started using an even darker green (#474714). We’ll continue rendering the stem in the next step.

Step 11

Continue rendering the stem by accentuating the lines within it. Brighten up the highlights and darken the shadows. I found #474714 to work as an excellent shadow and the bright yellow-green used in the last step to be perfect for this section of work.

Step 12

Darken up the shadows on the bottom edge of the pumpkin. Select each section and place new instances of darker orange (#862B08) along the bottom edge as well as between sections in order to give the design a more dimensional look.

Step 13

For the shadow underneath the pumpkin we’ll create a simple, smooth blend. Draw a small, thin brown ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L). Draw another ellipse, much larger than the first. Place it beneath the small ellipse in the Layers panel. Reduce the Opacity of the large ellipse to 0% in the Transparency panel. Use these opacity tips for advanced features. Use the Blend Tool (W) to create a blend from the small ellipse to the large ellipse that consists of 20 Steps . Place the blend group beneath the pumpkin components in the Layers panel.

Step 14

Group (Control-G) together all of your pumpkin components (in case you haven’t done so yet). Let’s focus on creating the face!

Using either the Pen Tool or Pencil Tool, draw a slightly curving triangle for the nose and curved, hauntingly angry-looking half moon shapes for the eyes.

Step 15

The mouth is a combination of several pieces: Draw a large half-moon smile that surves upward at the corners. Each tooth is a small square that overlaps the mouth halfway. Arrange your squares and rectangles in whatever way you want. I chose to draw five shapes in total. Unite the teeth (not the mouth) shapes in the Pathfinder panel. Select both the mouth and the newly united teeth shapes and hit Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel. Your pumpkin face is now ready to render.

Step 16

The following technique will be used repeatedly on the face in order to add dimension to the design: Your aim is to give the eye an inner edge. draw an overlapping shape that extends the corner in the upper left and meets the right-hand corner of the eye (see my shape below). Select both shapes and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to select the non-intersecting portion of the overlapping shape (see the selected image below). Deselect and Delete the extraneous shape. I changed the fill color to orange below so the result is more easily seen. Here’s where you can use the Gradient Tool (G) to apply a simple Linear Gradient going from various oranges to yellows. We’ll focus on the exact gradients I used in the steps below.

Step 17

Repeat Step 16 on the right eye and the nose. You’ll have to decide if the nose will show a bit of the inside on the left or right in addition to the bottom of the triangle.

Step 18

Continue using the Shape Builder Tool to delete the extraneous portions of overlapping shapes on the mouth. Note that since the left portion of the inside of the mouth is showing, I will have to alter the nose to follow the same line of perspective. Add dimension to the mouth and all of the teeth.

Step 19

Once satisfied with the shapes drawn in Steps 16-18, apply a Linear Gradient (using the Gradient Tool) similar to the one below. It goes from medium orange (#F05123) to orange (#FF8F19) to yellow-orange (#FBAD1D) and back (five colors total). You can add and adjust these colors within the Gradient panel.

Do so for both eyes, the nose, and the mouth. Keep the darker colors at the inner corners and edges and the lighter colors in the center of each shape. Smaller shapes, like the teeth, really only need a couple colors (see Step 22 for a breakdown of the gradients used).

Step 20

Select the main eye, nose, and mouth shapes and apply a Linear Gradient that goes from yellow (#FFEE52) to light cream (#FDF0CD). Adjust the gradient angle so the darker color is at the top of the shape.

Step 21

Select the main eye, nose, and mouth shapes again and go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow. Set the Mode to Screen, Color to a light yellow of your choosing, Opacity to 90%, and Blur to 0.1in.

Step 22

Finally, here’s a breakdown of the gradients applied to the shapes drawn in Steps 16-18. Note how some (the eyes, nose, and larger shape on the mouth) have five colors within the gradients whereas the other shapes have two or three.


Well done, you’re through! Draw a black rectangle using the Rectangle Tool behind your pumpkin in order to give it an appropriate background. Push your design further by designing several jack-o’-lantern friends for your pumpkin, or use this design as a jumping point for a Halloween-inspired display of bats, graves, vampires, and more!

gradient mesh pumpkin vector